Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines

A Film Review By The Mike

Rating: R for Violence, Language, and Partial Nudity
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken
Directed By: Jonathan Mostow

Final Grade:

In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, a film series is established that I never thought should have been established. I’ve ranted in depth on my thoughts on The Terminator and its sequel on this page, and my hatred for the existence of said sequel should have been a deterrent in my preparation to see T3. But my appetite for big-budget Schwarzenegger vehicles is one that must be fed, and Terminator 3 is the best tasting film Arnold’s made in a while.

James Cameron moved on after directing the first two films, and the reigns are now taken by Jonathan Mostow. Mostow wowed me previously with Breakdown, a B Movie so simple in plot and so tight in action that it held me in its grasp from opening to close. Terminator 3 is definitely from the same mold. The pacing is perfect, the action scenes are relentless, and the philosophical banter (thankfully there’s little of it…I was petrified this would turn in to another Matrix Reloaded) is simple and fitting. Mostow knows that a film like this, like a sorority babe, will not be looked at for its brains.

This isn’t a bad thing. The script allows Arnold to appear much more like a machine than the first sequel, limiting him to short lines that are usually so corny they work beautifully. The aging Schwarzenegger shows that he has not lost his ability to carry an action film, although the lack of action from his character leaves us wondering how much is left in Arnold’s tank. Hopefully we find out the answer in a different role. More on that later.

Among the other key players, Nick Stahl (from In the Bedroom, which is an excellent movie) shines while taking over the role of John Conner, the future hero who needs protection. The transition from the wide-eyed youth of Edward Furlong to the unaccepting adult is hard at first, but in the end Stahl’s Conner is right on the money. Claire Danes joins the fray as the love interest who also must be saved for mankind’s sake, and is sufficient in her role.

The most publicized addition to the franchise has been Kristanna Loken as the female nemesis of the Terminator, the TX. The TX model is much more impressive looking under fire than the similar model in T2. I know many people will regard this as blasphemous, but that liquid metal on Robert Patrick looked LAME! The TX has all the powers of her predecessor, but looks a lot better doing it. I’m referring mostly to the special effects, but yeah, the female aspect is cool to see too.

The success however, lies in the direction. Like Breakdown, Mostow masterfully crafts a film that manages to be both laid-back and wound-up at the same time, feeling simple in plot and hypercharged in activity. It’s not a masterpiece in any shape or form, but it did what I thought it could not – It made me care about John Conner again while keeping me gazing at the pretty explosions and collisions for almost two hours.

I can’t recommend Terminator 3 flat out. It’s too simple to be called anything more than a popcorn flick, and too basic in its action scenes to be called revolutionary in that aspect. It does add some basic determinism for flavor, and there is a deeper message. But, in truth, T3 seems simply like a remix of the ideas that were used to make T2. But it’s a remix that doesn’t succumb to too much “intelligence” like T2 did. This is no substitute for the original. But if I have to choose between the sequels, I’ll take the powderkeg that is Terminator 3 in a heartbeat over the flashbomb that is Terminator 2. Check it out.

P.S. – Love the Ending. It had to take a lot of balls to put that on the screen. Should be a fitting end to the series…I hope.

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